Sharma v. Globalfoundries U.S., Inc. Long Term Disability Insurance Plan et al, No. 5:2015cv03631 - Document 38 (N.D. Cal. 2016)

Court Description: ORDER Denying 15 Motion to Transfer Case. Signed by Judge Edward J. Davila on 5/11/2016. (ejdlc3, COURT STAFF) (Filed on 5/11/2016)
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1 2 3 4 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT 5 NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA 6 SAN JOSE DIVISION 7 8 BALGOVIND SHARMA, Case No. 5:15-cv-03631-EJD Plaintiff, 9 ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO TRANSFER v. 10 United States District Court Northern District of California 11 12 GLOBALFOUNDRIES U.S., INC. LONG TERM DISABILITY INSURANCE PLAN, et al., Re: Dkt. No. 15 Defendants. 13 14 Plaintiff Balgovind Sharma (“Plaintiff”) brings this action against Standard Insurance 15 Company (“Standard”) and Globalfoundries U.S., Inc. Long Term Disability Insurance Plan 16 (“Globalfoundries”), collectively (“Defendants”), alleging a single cause of action for monetary 17 relief under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974 (“ERISA”), 29 U.S.C. § 1001 18 et seq. Presently before the Court is Defendants’ Motion to Transfer the case to the United States 19 District Court for the Southern District of New York. Def. Mot. to Transfer (“Mot.”). See Docket 20 Item No. 15. Plaintiff has filed written opposition to the motion. 21 Federal jurisdiction arises pursuant to 29 U.S.C. § 1132(e) and 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). 22 Finding this matter suitable for decision without oral argument, the hearing scheduled for March 23 31, 2016 was vacated and the Motion was taken under submission pursuant to Civil Local Rule 7- 24 1(b). Having carefully considered the pleadings filed by the parties, the Court hereby DENIES the 25 Motion for the reasons explained below. 26 27 28 1 Case No.: 5:15-cv-03631-EJD ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO TRANSFER 1 2 I. LEGAL STANDARD Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1404(a), “a district court may transfer any civil action to any other 3 district or division where it might have been brought or to any district or division to which all 4 parties have consented” if such a transfer is convenient to the parties and witnesses. The purpose 5 of § 1404(a) is to “prevent the waste of time, energy, and money and to protect litigants, 6 witnesses, and the public against unnecessary inconvenience and expense.” Van Dusen v. 7 Barrack, 376 U.S. 612, 616 (1964). 8 To determine whether transfer is appropriate, the court first examines whether the action could have been brought in the district to which transfer is sought. See Hatch v. Reliance Ins. Co., 10 758 F.2d 409, 414 (9th Cir. 1985) (“In determining whether an action might have been brought in 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 a district, the court looks to whether the action initially could have been commenced in that 12 district.” (internal quotation marks and citations omitted)). If the proposed district is a viable one, 13 the court then goes through an “individualized, case-by-case consideration of convenience and 14 fairness.” Van Dusen, 376 U.S. at 622. 15 In addition to the convenience considerations enumerated by § 1404(a), the Ninth Circuit 16 has identified other fairness factors that should be weighed by the court when considering a 17 transfer: “(1) the location where the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed, (2) the 18 state that is most familiar with the governing law, (3) the plaintiff’s choice of forum, (4) the 19 respective parties’ contacts with the forum, (5) the contacts relating to the plaintiff’s cause of 20 action in the chosen forum, (6) the differences in the costs of litigation in the two forums, (7) the 21 availability of compulsory process to compel attendance of unwilling non-party witnesses, and (8) 22 the ease of access to sources of proof.” Jones v. GNC Franchising, Inc., 211 F.3d 495, 498-99 23 (9th Cir. 2000). 24 “No single factor is dispositive, and a district court has broad discretion to adjudicate 25 motions for transfer on a case-by-case basis.” Ctr. for Biological Diversity v. Kempthorne, No. 26 C08-1339CW, 2008 WL 4543043, at *2 (N.D. Cal. Oct. 10, 2008) (citing Stewart Org., Inc. v. 27 28 2 Case No.: 5:15-cv-03631-EJD ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO TRANSFER 1 Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22, 29 (1988); Sparling v. Hoffman Constr. Co., Inc., 864 F.2d 635, 639 2 (9th Cir. 1988)). A transfer may not be appropriate under § 1404(a) if it “would merely shift 3 rather than eliminate the inconvenience.” Decker Coal Co. v. Commonwealth Edison Co., 805 4 F.2d 834, 843 (9th Cir. 1986). The party moving for transfer of a case bears the burden of 5 demonstrating transfer is appropriate. Commodity Futures Trading Comm’n v. Savage, 611 F.2d 6 270, 279 (9th Cir. 1979). 7 II. DISCUSSION 8 A. 9 Pursuant to ERISA’s venue provision, “[w]here an action under this subchapter is brought Venue is Proper in Either District in a district court of the United States, it may be brought in the district where the plan is 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 administered, where the breach took place, or where a defendant resides or may be found.” 29 12 U.S.C. § 1132(e)(2). For venue purposes, a defendant corporation shall be deemed to reside “in 13 any judicial district in which such defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction.” 28 14 U.S.C. § 1391(c)(2). 15 Venue is proper in this district because both Defendants “reside[] or may be found” here. 16 See § 1132(e)(2). Defendant Standard is an insurance company headquartered in Portland, 17 Oregon that conducts business throughout the United States, including in both California and New 18 York. Standard administered long term disability benefits provided by Globalfoundries U.S., 19 Inc.’s employee benefit plan. Globalfoundries is headquartered in northern California, and 20 designated Santa Clara as “the situs of plan administration.” Pl. Opp. to Def. Mot. to Transfer 21 (“Opp.”) at 2, 4, Dkt. No. 20; see also Def. Reply at 2, Dkt. No. 22. 22 As to whether the action could have been brought in the Southern District of New York, 23 the Court observes that both Standard and Globalfoundries conduct business in New York and 24 thus “may be found” in the proposed transferee district as well. Indeed, Plaintiff acknowledges 25 that this case could have appropriately been filed there. Opp. at 3. Thus, the Court finds that 26 Defendants met their burden as to this threshold inquiry. 27 28 3 Case No.: 5:15-cv-03631-EJD ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO TRANSFER B. 1 Convenience Considerations Do Not Favor Transfer Looking next to which forum is more convenient for the parties and relevant witnesses, 2 3 Defendants fail to demonstrate that the Southern District of New York is a more convenient 4 forum. With respect to the parties, Defendants argue that “Plaintiff does not reside in California; 5 he has lived in New York since 2006,” and Defendants “both operate in New York.” Mot. at 6. 6 Based on these facts, Defendants conclude that “the convenience of the parties favors transfer to 7 New York.” Id. This argument is unpersuasive for two reasons. First, although Plaintiff is a resident of New York, Plaintiff also chose this forum. The 8 relative convenience of a particular district is presumably a consideration in a plaintiff’s decision 10 to file suit in that district. See Robertson v. Standard Ins. Co., No. 3:14-CV-01572-HZ, 2014 WL 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 9 7240682, at *4 (D. Or. Dec. 16, 2014) (explaining that the court will assume a plaintiff’s selected 12 forum is convenient for the plaintiff, given that the plaintiff chose to litigate there and provided 13 several legitimate reasons for why the forum was convenient). Thus, it is unconvincing for 14 Defendants to advance a convenience argument based primarily on the logic that Plaintiff’s choice 15 of forum would be inconvenient to Plaintiff. Second, although Defendants both operate in New York, this fact is unpersuasive on the 16 17 question of convenience when both Defendants also operate in California. Moreover, Defendant 18 Globalfoundries is headquartered in northern California, and designated this district as “the situs 19 of plan administration.” Opp. at 2, 4; see also Def. Reply at 2. Given these facts, Defendants have 20 failed to show how they are any more inconvenienced by litigating in this district – where both 21 Defendants operate, and where Globalfoundries is based – than they would be by litigating in New 22 York. 23 Finally, Defendants fail to demonstrate that the convenience of potential witnesses in this 24 case would be served by a transfer to New York. As Defendants acknowledge, ERISA actions 25 such as this one are typically decided on the administrative record. See Mot. at 6. Therefore, it is 26 unlikely that any witnesses will be required to testify in this case. 27 28 4 Case No.: 5:15-cv-03631-EJD ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO TRANSFER 1 C. The Interests of Justice Would Not Be Served By Transfer 2 Turning to whether transfer would best serve the interests of justice, the Court finds that it 3 would not. Looking to the Jones fairness factors, the third, fourth, and fifth factors weigh against 4 transfer, while the remaining factors are natural. See Jones, 211 F.3d at 498-99. 5 As to Plaintiff’s choice of forum, the court acknowledges that although this decision is 6 typically afforded significant weight when considering a motion to transfer, it is “given less 7 deference when the plaintiff resides outside of the chosen forum.” Brown v. Abercrombie & Fitch 8 Co., No. 4:13–CV–05205 YGR, 2014 WL 715082, at *3 (N.D. Cal. Feb. 14, 2014). Accordingly, 9 the Court finds that the Plaintiff’s choice of forum weighs slightly against transfer in this case. 10 The fourth and fifth factors regarding the parties’ contacts with the forum weigh United States District Court Northern District of California 11 marginally in favor of maintaining the case in this district. On one hand, New York is where 12 Plaintiff presently resides, where he received disability benefits, and “where he was denied 13 benefits when the Standard determined he was no longer disabled under the terms of the plan.” 14 Mot. at 7. However, Plaintiff worked and resided in California when he suffered a head injury on 15 a work-related flight to Texas. Opp. at 3. Plaintiff was seen by both California and New York 16 medical providers subsequent to his injury, and the California Workers’ Compensation Appeals 17 Board made the initial determination that he was “100% disabled.” Opp. at 3; Compl. ¶ 4. 18 Moreover, both Defendants operate their business in California, and Defendant Globalfoundries is 19 headquartered here. Opp. at 2, 4. 20 The remaining factors are neutral. The first factor is neutral because the location where 21 the relevant agreements were negotiated and executed applies to both forums. Plaintiff has 22 worked in both California and New York, received medical treatment in both California and New 23 York, and engaged in proceedings related to his benefits claims in both California and New York. 24 See Mot. at 7; Opp. at 1-2, 3, 4. The second factor is also neutral because ERISA is a federal 25 statute, and therefore a district court in either state would be equally familiar with the governing 26 law. The sixth factor is neutral because the differences in the costs of litigation would likely be 27 28 5 Case No.: 5:15-cv-03631-EJD ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO TRANSFER 1 comparable in either district. And finally, the seventh and eighth factors are neutral because they 2 are immaterial to this case. As previously noted, an ERISA action is likely to be decided on the 3 administrative record. Consequently, the ability to compel attendance of unwilling witnesses and 4 the relative ease of access to other evidence is likely irrelevant. In sum, Defendants fail to demonstrate that transferring this case to New York would 5 6 better serve the interests of justice. To the extent that fairness considerations favor either forum, 7 the relevant factors weigh in favor of maintaining the case in Plaintiff’s chosen district. 8 III. 9 CONCLUSION On balance, the convenience and fairness considerations applicable to an analysis under § 1404(a) weigh against transferring this action to the Southern District of New York. 11 United States District Court Northern District of California 10 Accordingly, Defendant’s Motion to Transfer is DENIED. 12 13 14 15 16 IT IS SO ORDERED. Dated: May 11, 2016 ______________________________________ EDWARD J. DAVILA United States District Judge 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 6 Case No.: 5:15-cv-03631-EJD ORDER DENYING DEFENDANTS’ MOTION TO TRANSFER